Newsletter

Interstate 66 project crews are rerouting more traffic along the corridor this year with future milestones — and easier commuting — in sight.

Virginia Department of Transportation and construction officials shared updates on the progress of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project at virtual community meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday (June 29 and 30). Express lanes in the multibillion-dollar project are slated to open in December 2022.

The added express lanes will involve tolls for solo drivers and be free for vehicles with three or more people. Other changes coming with the project include adding express ramp connections at interchanges and improved pedestrian and bicycle facilities, including a newly created I-66 Trail along the corridor.

“Every day, things are changing,” VDOT megaprojects director Susan Shaw said during the presentation on Wednesday, which focused on the area from Jermantown Road in Fairfax to I-495 in Dunn Loring. “There’s a lot of work that’s going on out there, about $60 million worth of work per month…That’s a lot of changes, and it means changes for drivers.”

She reminded community members that it is now illegal for drivers to utilize a handheld device while operating their vehicle, thanks to a new law passed in 2020 that became effective Jan. 1.

“We just ask that you really be alert when you’re driving the corridor, that you pay attention to all the signage,” she said.

Project officials reported the following timelines for improvements to I-66 interchanges:

Gallows Road Bridge

  • Mid-July: A traffic shift will occur
  • August: The new northbound bridge opens with traffic shifting there. The old bridge will begin to be demolished overnight, and construction of the new southbound bridge will start.
  • December: Work related to tying in a school driveway will occur over winter break

Nutley Street Interchange

  • Permanent ramps and retaining walls are being constructed this summer

Vaden Drive Bridge

  • Express lane ramps are being constructed and slated to be complete by early fall.
  • A sidewalk on the west side of the bridge is scheduled to open in early fall. It runs from Saintsbury Drive to Country Creek Road.

Chain Bridge Road (Route 123)

  • Southbound Route 123 traffic will shift to the new bridge in late fall.
  • Permanent Route 123 ramps to I-66 will open later this year. Northbound Route 123 changes are slated for late July and the summer, and southbound ramp openings are on schedule for this fall.
  • Roadwork on Route 123 north and south of the interchange will take place in early 2022.

Jermantown Road

  • Pedestrian access, which didn’t exist before, will be available after the project is completed.
  • Construction will take place in early July of sidewalk north and south of the bridge on the west side of the road.

Route 50

  • Lanes are being shifted to new bridges. Route 50 westbound traffic switched to the new overpass on Sunday (June 27), and eastbound traffic will take over the new structure on or about July 10.

The I-66 Trail, the new shared-use path being added along the interstate, could be opened in phases, but it depends on whether it’s safe to do so, Shaw said. She said they’re not committed to anything prior to the anticipated completion of the project in mid-2023.

“Our…top priority is to make sure that…the shared use path is safe and that it’s safe while we’re completing this project,” she said.

Meanwhile, noise walls are going up in various locations along I-66, but the COVID-19 pandemic has caused delays in some materials, including steel posts and panel production, said Nancy Smith, public relations director with FAM Construction, the design-builder for the project.

To get more project updates, a project webpage is available at outside.transform66.org. Presentation videos from Tuesday and Wednesday are available on YouTube.

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Morning Notes

Water Caffi Fields baseball diamond in Vienna (photo by Amy Woolsey)

New Laws Take Effect in Virginia — A host of new laws passed by the General Assembly take effect today, including the legalization of simple marijuana possession, the abolition of the death penalty, and a requirement that drivers change lanes when passing bicyclists. The fine for littering is now $500, up from $250, and it is now illegal to intentionally release a balloon outside. [Patch]

MPAartfest Returns In Person This Fall — The McLean Project of the Arts announced yesterday (Wednesday) that its annual, free art festival will officially be back in person at McLean Central Park from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 3. The event will feature a one-day juried fine art and craft show/sale, food vendors, and more. It will also stream online. [McLean Project for the Arts]

Jones Branch Connector Awarded — “The Jones Branch Connector, a joint effort by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Fairfax County to build a new crossing over the Capital Beltway in Tysons, has been named the 2021 National Project of the Year by the American Society of Highway Engineers.” [VDOT]

1st Stage Finds Success with Return to Live Theater — Almost 1,000 people attended 1st Stage’s Celebration at The Boro on Sunday (June 27), according to an email sent to supporters yesterday. The event, which centered on a concert reading of the musical “A New Brain,” was the Tysons theater’s first in-person production since February 2020 and raised $87,000 for the venue. [1st Stage]

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Morning Notes

Lantana flowers by Spring Hill Road post office in McLean (photo by Joanne Liebig)

Construction Closes I-66 West Overnight — Starting last night (Wednesday), all lanes of I-66 West approaching I-495 in the Dunn Loring area will be closed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. every night through Saturday (June 19). The closures are necessary for overhead bridge work on the interchange as part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project. [VDOT]

Rally in Support of Public Schools Tonight — The Fairfax County Democratic Committee is organizing a rally in support of Fairfax County Public Schools ahead of the school board’s meeting at Luther Jackson Middle School. The school board has faced criticism from some for making political statements and closing schools last year due to COVID-19, including a recall campaign led by a parents’ group that identifies as bipartisan but has received substantial funding from Republican donors. [Fairfax Democrats/Twitter]

Rick Springfield Fans Once Shut Down Tysons Corner — “June 17 is the 40th anniversary of the day Rick Springfield shut down Tysons Corner. Larry Houck was there. ‘Talk about having a front-row seat,’ said Houck, who worked at the Variety Records in Tysons Corner Center, where Springfield was scheduled to meet fans.” [The Washington Post]

McLean Startup Raises $60 Million — The McLean-based kidney care startup Somatus Inc. has secured $60.12 million in new funding, bringing the company’s total funding to $165 million over its five years of existence. The funds come from an equity offering that had its first sale on June 1 and will be used to support the company’s continued expansion as it now serves more than 150,000 patients in the U.S. [Washington Business Journal]

Maryland Beltway Project in Jeopardy — The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Transportation Planning Board voted yesterday to remove Maryland’s Capital Beltway toll lanes plan from a list of long-term transportation projects, jeopardizing its ability to secure federally required environmental approval. The project will also replace and expand the American Legion Bridge and is considered a necessary supplement to Virginia’s 495 NEXT project in McLean. [The Washington Post]

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Updated at 7:20 p.m. on 4/1/2021 — The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project has postponed the single-lane closure on Old Meadow Road near Route 123 that was scheduled to take place tomorrow “until further notice.”

Earlier: The left lane of Old Meadow Road leading up to Route 123 in Tysons will be closed during much of the day on Saturday (April 3), the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project announced earlier this week.

Prompted by the need for “minor asphalt repairs,” the closure will encompass one block near the intersection with Old Chain Bridge Road. It will take effect at 9 a.m. with all lanes scheduled to reopen by 4 p.m.

The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project says that, with the assistance of flaggers, traffic will be maintained in both directions, and drivers will be able to turn onto Old Meadow Road and Route 123. The parking lots at 1690 Old Meadow Road and the CityLine property will still be accessible.

“Performing this work on the weekend will minimize impacts, avoid interference with other projects along Old Meadow Road and maximize the safety motorists and pedestrians,” the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project said.

The asphalt repairs are connected to efforts to realign Old Meadow Road with Capital One Tower Drive along Route 123, work that has now been going on for a year. The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project previously predicted that construction would be completed by the end of 2020, but this would not be the first time that the project has taken longer than expected.

The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project is overseeing the development of Metro’s Silver Line. It is a partnership between the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Town of Herndon, and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA).

The Silver Line’s first phase opened in 2014, while the second phase, which will extend the transit system into Loudoun County, is still inching toward completion.

Image via Google Maps

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Commuters in Merrifield and Vienna should probably avoid traveling on Interstate 66 Friday night (March 19), as multiple lane closures and traffic stoppages are scheduled to accommodate ongoing construction work.

Eastbound I-66 will be reduced to a single travel lane at Gallows Road in Merrifield from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. so that crews can pour concrete for a new Gallows Road Bridge deck.

The Virginia Department of Transportation says that periodic stoppages of up to 20 minutes could occur between midnight and 4 a.m., but all lanes will reopen by 9 a.m. on Saturday.

There will also be lane closures on Gallows Road, which will be reduced to two travel lanes — one in each direction — from 9 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday. Two-way traffic will be directed to the southbound side of Gallows during the closure.

“Drivers should expect delays if traveling in this area and are encouraged to use alternate routes,” VDOT says.

In addition, I-66 East and West will be reduced to one travel lane between Gallows and Nutley Street from 9 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Saturday, when all lanes will reopen. There will be periodic traffic stoppages of up to 20 minutes between midnight and 4 a.m.

According to VDOT, this lane closure is necessary for crews to remove an overhead utility line at Cedar Lane, which will have flaggers to direct traffic into a single lane between midnight and 4 a.m.

At both Gallows Road and Cedar Lane, the construction work is part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project, which will extend the I-66 express lanes 22.5 miles from the I-495 interchange in Dunn Loring to Gainesville.

VDOT notes that “all work is weather dependent and will be rescheduled if inclement conditions occur.”

Maps via Google Maps, VDOT

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Nosie Barrier being installed along Route 7, between Reston Avenue and Utterback Store Road (Photo courtesy of VDOT)

A major project to widen nearly seven miles of Route 7 between Reston Avenue and Jarrett Valley Drive remains on track for completion by July 31, 2024.

It is also expected to be completed within its $314 million budget, Virginia Department of Transportation spokesperson Jennifer McCord confirms.

The improvements include widening the heavily-trafficked road — also known as Leesburg Pike — from four to six lanes between Reston and Tysons, adding shared-use paths for pedestrians and bikers, and making major design changes to intersections.

It’s all being done within the guidelines of the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan.

Discussions about the project began nearly a decade ago, and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved it in 2017. Workers broke ground on construction in June 2019. It’s expected to take just over five years to complete.

Over the last two months, construction has continued at different sections of the road.

While much of the construction activity currently underway is focused in the Reston and Great Falls sections of the project, crews in the Tysons segment between Faulkner Drive and Jarrett Valley Drive have been working to relocate a water main between Beulah Road and Towlston Road.

Eastbound traffic on Route 7 between Lewinsville Road and Jarrett Valley Drive in McLean has been shifted north to accommodate construction.

Landscaping work and third-party utility relocations are underway throughout the roadway.

Periodic traffic changes and lane closures are expected to occur throughout the corridor as construction continues.

While COVID-19 has limited crews’ ability to work side-by-side, the decreased traffic volume — particularly in the earlier part of the pandemic — has allowed VDOT to extend work hours.

Photo courtesy VDOT

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A new pedestrian bridge and shared-use trail linking Tysons Corner Center to the McLean Metro station is on track to start construction this summer, the Virginia Department of Transportation says.

The project will introduce a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists over the Capital Beltway, along with a 4,662-foot-long, 10-foot-wide path between I-495 and Route 123 along the west side of Old Meadow Road.

“I think this is going to be a good thing for Tysons,” VDOT Senior Project Manager Abraham Lerner said. “It will continue to go along with the goals of the Board of Supervisors and Fairfax County staff to implement multimodal measures and to try to reduce the dependence on the private automobile.”

This pedestrian and bicycle improvement at the I-495/123 interchange has been in the works for years as part of a commitment that VDOT and Fairfax County made when the Beltway was widened to accommodate toll lanes.

The I-495 Express Lanes project, which was completed in November 2012, called for the addition of pedestrian and bicycle connections throughout the Beltway corridor from Braddock Road in Annandale to Lewinsville Road in McLean.

However, a crossing at the 123 interchange could not be built at the time because of “a number of physical and geometric reasons,” Lerner says. So, Fairfax County and the state committed to constructing one in the future.

About five years ago, VDOT and the county proposed building a trail along Route 123, but the idea drew public criticism given the safety risks of having crosswalks across multiple Beltway ramps, according to Chris Wells, who manages the Fairfax County Department of Transportation’s Active Transportation Program.

Transportation officials then looked at options for building an overhead bridge across I-495 near 123, rather than immediately at the interchange. Old Meadow Road emerged as the most feasible site.

“Because of the design of the Beltway itself and the express lanes, there was only this one location that we found where we could put a bridge pier in the middle of the Beltway,” Wells said. “Otherwise, we were going to have to span the entire Beltway with a larger bridge structure, which would’ve been much more expensive.”

VDOT held a public hearing on the project in June 2018, and the design was approved in November of that year. But Lerner says the right-of-way acquisition process took over nine months to complete, since the project needed land from six different properties.

The Dolley Madison Apartments and Encore Condominiums were affected the most, with residents citing concerns about the loss of trees, the potential impact on security and privacy, and the safety of a path with no separation between cyclists and pedestrians.

“Because of all the concerns, the issues that were raised during the public hearing process, we needed to work with [residents] to make sure we did the right-of-way acquisition in a very thorough manner,” Lerner said.

The public comment process also led VDOT to incorporate lighting in its design for the planned bridge over I-495.

While VDOT has not identified a contractor yet, construction is expected to cost $8.5 million. The project’s total $13.4 million cost has been fully financed with funds from federal, state, and local sources.

Because the path is off-road, Lerner says the only significant traffic impacts will come when crews work on the bridge over the Beltway. Construction is expected to take a year, concluding in the summer of 2022.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said in a statement that she is “delighted” that work on the shared-use path and pedestrian bridge will start this summer.

“This bridge will encourage walking and biking, save time, and reduce automobile traffic and carbon emissions,” Palchik said. “Residents won’t have to jump in their cars to drive and park at the mall, and I’m pleased that VDOT will be installing a lighted bridge. We are grateful to the Old Meadow Road neighborhood who worked with the engineering teams to transition the property and make this bridge happen.”

Image via VDOT

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Several local chambers of commerce have come out in favor of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s much-debated 495 NEXT project, which will extend the I-495 Express Lanes approximately three miles from the Dulles Toll Road interchange to the American Legion Bridge.

The Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce announced its endorsement of the project yesterday (Monday). It was joined by the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce, as well as chambers representing Reston, Springfield, Mount Vernon, the City of Alexandria, Arlington County, and Prince William County.

The organizations, which represent businesses that collectively employ about 600,000 people across Northern Virginia, say expanding the 495 Express Lanes will help reduce one of the region’s biggest chokepoints and generally improve local travel conditions, particularly in the Tysons area and in between Virginia and Maryland.

“The I-495 expansion will bring a much-needed economic boost to the area and provide long-term economic benefits,” Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Julie Coons said. “It will also add new transit choices that will help attract more businesses and help existing businesses flourish.”

According to the NOVA Chamber of Commerce, the 495 NEXT project is expected to create an estimated 6,300 new jobs and generate $880 million in economic activity during its development and construction.

VDOT is currently waiting for the Federal Highway Administration to issue a decision on the project based on an environmental assessment that was released last February. If the assessment is approved, the state agency expects to issue a contract, finalize the design, and start construction later this year.

The 495 NEXT project is being developed in parallel with a Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation study of transit options for the I-495 and American Legion Bridge corridor. State officials have proposed expanding bus service between Northern Virginia, particularly Tysons, and Maryland, though a final report is not expected to come out until March.

“The expanded transit service will help Tysons reach its long-term goals to reduce congestion and increase accessibility for Tyson’s residents, businesses, employees, and consumers, improving our quality of life and economic outlook,” Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce President and Chairman Andrew Clark said.

VDOT says that the 495 NEXT project will enable 2,500 more people per hour to move through the corridor starting in 2025.

However, it would be able to move even more people if Maryland finishes its plans to introduce toll lanes on the American Legion Bridge, leading some to question why the timelines for the two projects are not aligned. The environmental assessment for Maryland’s managed toll lanes study is not scheduled to be completed until this fall.

Community members and public officials have also raised concerns about the project’s potential impact on surrounding neighborhoods and the environment, especially when it comes to water quality.

The chambers of commerce that have backed 495 NEXT say it is necessary to “set the stage” for improvements to the American Legion Bridge, which currently sees over 230,000 trips per day.

“For years, neighborhoods in McLean have been inundated by cut-through regional commuters seeking to avoid the endemic Beltway backups approaching the American Legion Bridge,” Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce President Paul Kohlenberger said. “495 NEXT will alleviate this cut-through traffic, increase travel time reliability, and offer additional travel choices to the residents, customers and workers of the Greater McLean area.”

Photo via Google Maps

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Friday Morning Notes

Contract Awarded for Madison High School Addition — The Fairfax County School Board approved a $13.3 million contract to Meridian Construction Co. as part of its consent agenda last night (Thursday). The addition project will give James Madison High School in Vienna about 32,000 square feet of new space, and construction is expected to start this spring. [FCPS]

Northam Calls General Assembly Special Session — The special session will begin on Feb. 10 to “align the legislative calendar with the customary 46-day length for odd-numbered years. This special session will coincide with the conclusion of the current 30-day session that began on January 13, and will ensure the legislature can complete its work on the state budget and pandemic relief.” [Virginia Governor’s Office]

Temporary Nutley/I-66 Ramp to Open on Sunday — A new, temporary ramp for drivers exiting I-66 West to Nutley Street North and South is scheduled to open in Vienna on Feb. 7. The traffic pattern change was originally expected to take place last week, but it was delayed by the snow. [VDOT]

Movie Theater Still Promised at Founders Row — Developer Mill Creek told the Falls Church Economic Development Authority earlier this week that it remains committed to finding a movie theater for the mixed-use project. Parts of the project could open in September with hopes that a theater will be in place between December 2021 and May 2022. [Falls Church News-Press]

Judge Faults Fairfax County Prosecutors for Failing to Notify Victim of New Trial — A circuit court judge determined that the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney failed its legal obligation to inform a man who was allegedly threatened with a gun in a confrontation at a Springfield Chick-fil-A in August that he had an appeals hearing. County prosecutors had declined to participate in the case, as the office has shifted its focus to felonies and more serious misdemeanors. [The Washington Post]

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Updated at 5:05 p.m. on 1/29/2021 — The opening of a temporary ramp from I-66 West to Nutley Street has been postponed to next weekend due to anticipated inclement weather, the Virginia Department of Transportation announced today.

Earlier — Drivers exiting onto Nutley Street in Vienna from Interstate 66 West will be directed to a new, temporary ramp starting Sunday (Jan. 31).

Here are the details from VDOT on the new traffic pattern, which is expected to stay in place for approximately 18 months:

New Ramps for I-66 West to Nutley Street North and South

  • The current ramp from I-66 West to northbound Nutley Street will close.
  • Drivers will access northbound Nutley Street using a new ramp to Nutley Street North and South located slightly west of the current exit, then stay to the right to northbound Nutley Street.
  • Drivers will access southbound Nutley Street using the new ramp from I-66 West, stay to the left, then turn left at a temporary traffic signal to southbound Nutley Street.

A temporary traffic signal will be installed while the temporary ramp is in place so that drivers headed south on Nutley can turn left.

To complete paving work for the change, the Virginia Department of Transportation will close the existing ramp from I-66 West to Nutley Street North from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Jan. 30 and 31.

During that time, drivers looking to get off of I-66 West will be detoured to the exit for the Vienna Metro station. They will then have to stay right on Country Creek Road and Virginia Center Boulevard to reach Nutley.

According to VDOT, the new, temporary I-66 West exit ramp is needed to accommodate construction on a new Nutley Street interchange as part of its Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project.

When construction is finished, the new Nutley interchange will have two roundabouts, which VDOT says “will provide safer, more efficient travel for vehicles entering and exiting I-66 and improve safety for vehicles and pedestrians traveling on Nutley Street.”

The department also notes that all work is weather dependent and will be rescheduled if there are inclement conditions.

“Drivers should always use caution and pay attention to lane markings and roadway signs in construction work zones,” VDOT says in its news release.

Images via Google Maps, VDOT

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